Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Benjamin Smith Barton to Thomas Jefferson, 23 March 1813

From Benjamin Smith Barton

March 23d 1813.

Dear Sir,

I find there is to be a “physician” general of the arm. of the U. States—I have the vanity to think, that I am not entirely unqualified for that important place, by my age, my experience in practise, & my long experience as a teacher of a “practical” branch of medicine. Perhaps, I have some claim upon the government, as a steady supporter, so far as I can go, of the measures of the executive. I add, I flatter myself, my appointment to the place would not be deemd an unpopular one: because, among other reasons, I have contributed essentially to the education of a very great number of the young physicians in the present army & navy of the U. States. For a considerable time past, my health has been good & firm: and I could go through many1 of the fatigues2 of the station which I solicit. I have written, on this subject, to the President: but I have not received any answer. I am confident that you could effect somewhat for me, if your opinion of my qualifications be favourable; & the views of the President be not quite fixed in another quarter. The place of physician general, & not of surgeon general, is what I ask.

I am, Sir, with very great respect Your obedient servant & affect. friend, &c., &c.,

Benjamin Smith Barton.

RC (DLC); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ as received 31 Mar. 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

A provision in a 3 Mar. 1813 “Act for the better organization of the general staff of the Army of the United States” called for the appointment of both an apothecary general and a physician and surgeon general, “whose respective duties and powers shall be prescribed by the President of the United States,” in order to insure the “better superintendence and management of the hospital and medical establishment of the army of the United States” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 2:819–20). The Senate subsequently confirmed President James Madison’s nomination of James Tilton as “Physician and Surgeon General” and Francis Le Baron as apothecary general (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:352, 353 [10, 11 June 1813]). No letter from Barton to the president promoting his candidacy has been found. On 20 Apr. 1813 Barton asked Madison to consider appointing him treasurer of the United States Mint, a post left vacant by the death of Benjamin Rush (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 6:224).

1Word interlined in place of “some.”

2Manuscript: “fatigus.”

Index Entries

  • An Act for the better organization of the general staff of the Army of the United States (1813) search
  • Army, U.S.; medical department search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; and appointment to U.S. Army medical department search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; letters from search
  • Barton, Benjamin Smith; seeks to be treasurer of U.S. Mint search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Le Baron, Francis; appointment of search
  • Madison, James; and appointments search
  • Mint, U.S.; treasurer of search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Tilton, James; appointment of search